Come for Chris Cuomo badgering Rubio about his position, stay for Chris Cuomo arguing with Rubio for several long minutes about whether science supports the belief that life begins at conception. Turns out you can’t be a leader of the future if your position on that issue is grounded in faith. Who knew?

Ramesh Ponnuru is right that the alleged gotcha here about abortion exceptions is stupid. But it was the closest Rubio came last night to a misstep and it’s an easy point of attack later for Hillary and the war-on-women gang if he ends up as the nominee, so naturally the media’s interested in it. Watch the first clip below for Rubio’s exchange with Megyn Kelly at the debate. Isn’t it true, says Kelly, that you voted for abortion bills containing exceptions for rape and incest? How can you be pro-life and support exceptions for abortion? Rubio’s reply: When did I ever say I support those exceptions?

So Rubio doesn’t support exceptions for rape and incest? That sounds war-on-women-y, notes BuzzFeed:

Rubio’s aggressive answer won over the crowd of conservatives in Cleveland — but the position he appeared to be taking is deeply unpopular nationally. One Gallup poll found that just 22% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in cases of rape and incest. And recently, Clinton has been signaling that she plans to use women’s reproductive health care — and potentially abortion — as a wedge issue against Republicans in 2016. This week, she released a two-minute video defending Planned Parenthood, explicitly including its abortion services. She also launched an online ad campaign targeting Jeb Bush’s recent comment about women’s health.

By opposing rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans, Rubio could easily open himself up to attacks from Clinton that his positions are extreme. Perhaps recognizing this, the candidate’s aides walked back his comments in the post-debate spin room — though not entirely.

Asked whether Rubio supports rape and incest exceptions, Conant repeated Rubio’s statement that he had not “advocated” for that position, but then hastened to add, “He has supported legislation that included exceptions.”

The supposed contradiction here is easily resolved. Ideally Rubio would like to see abortion banned entirely, but if all he can get legislatively is a bill that bans most abortions while making exceptions for rape and incest, sure, he’ll vote for that. A law that reduces the number of abortions is worth backing even if it doesn’t reduce them as much as a social conservative would like. The perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good. Rubio himself makes that point efficiently to Cuomo: Just because I’d vote for a bill that bans abortions at 20 weeks, he says, doesn’t mean I support abortions before 20 weeks. As a legislator, you take what you can get politically. So yeah, he personally opposes exceptions for rape and incest but he’ll tolerate them in the name of making America incrementally more pro-life. Hillary will club him for that mercilessly in the general even though there’s not a whisper of a chance that Republicans will ever have the numbers in Congress to pass a total ban on abortion (and even less of a chance of getting that ban to stand up in court), but it’s the best Rubio can do to reassure pro-life Republican primary voters that he’s one of them on the one hand and moderately pro-choice swing voters in the general that he’s open to compromise on the other.

If a social issue’s going to cause Rubio problems on the right, it won’t be abortion. Even by his usual standards of solid oratory, his speeches in defense of life have been eloquent; if he ever ends up being pressed on his commitment to the cause, he’ll talk his way out of it. The potential landmine for him among social conservatives is his acquiescence to the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. He’s the guy, remember, who was quick to say that we should respect the Court’s decision and move on at a moment when Mike Huckabee was pounding the table about resistance and questioning whether a Court ruling can even have the force of law without legislative action. If he ends up battling with, say, Ted Cruz for social conservative votes, that’s bound to come up. Especially since, for reasons that continue to elude me, Rubio also opposes a constitutional amendment that would return the issue of marriage to the states.

Exit question: Do my ears deceive me or does Cuomo say at around 4:35 of the second clip that in order to be a leader you need some sort of meaningful answer to the question of when life begins? Didn’t we elect a guy a few years ago who famously dodged a nearly identical question by saying it was above his pay grade?